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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 82, no. 2119: October 24, 1908

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October 24, 1908. RECORD AND GTTTDE 773 @DII« ESTABUSHED-^MJU^HSiy>1668. De^teD p Re^l Estate . BuiLdti/g %:j^iTEeniKE .Household DEOonfTKsf, BUsn/ESS AffoThemes OF Get^r^L !Ktei\esi.. PRICE PER YEAR IN ADVANCE EIGHT DOLLARS Communications should be addressed to C. W. SWEET Publisfied Every Saturday By THE KECORD AND GUIDE CO. Preddent, CLINTON W. SWEET Treasurer, P. W. DODGB Vice-Pres. Sc Genl. Mgr., H, W. DESMOND Secretary, F. T. MILLER Kos. 11 to 13 East 24tl» Street, New York City (Telephone, Madison Square. 4430 to 4433.) "Entered at the Post Office at New York, N. 1'.. as s eond-class matter." Copyrighted, IOOS, by The Record & Gulcie Co. Vol. LXXXII. OCTOBER 24, 190S. No. 2110 F, as has been frequently stated, the failure of the Hotel Gotham to pay expenses was due to the inability of its proprietors to sell liciuors on the premises, the case is only another instance of the useless and burdensome limitations frequently Imposed on the owners of real estate. The pro¬ prietors could not, of course, obtain a license, because a church was already in existence within the prescribed dis¬ tance from the hotel, and inasmuch as the law forbade the granting of the license under such conditions, the owners of the hotel were unwise to have risked their money until they were sure of their license. On the other hand, no pos¬ sible harm could have come to the membership of the church from the sale of liquor within the premises of the hotel; aud this fact is so obvious that it is not worth arguing. Of the pew-holders of the church, probably nineteen out of every twenty have wine or liquor served in their own houses under substantially the same conditions that it would be served in the hotel; and yet, the proprietor of the hotel is forbid¬ den to sell wine to his guests because these gentlemen might be contaminated on tiieir way to church by a spectacle which they do not see and with which they are familiar in their own houses. Could any example of regulation in the inter¬ est of public morality be more ludicrous than that? The real object of the law forbidding the granting of a license to sell liquors within a certain distance from a church is that of doing away with saloons so near to a church that they might constitute a temptation to the younger visitors to a church; and it should be so limited as not to apply to hotels in which liquor is served under suhstantially the same con¬ ditions as it is in private houses. Moreover, from any point of view the existence of such a regulation is a curious com¬ mentary on the way in which the churches regard the Com¬ petition of saloons. The time was when a church would have heen situated as near as possible to some possible source of popular corruption, so that the evil influence could have been fought and conquered; but now a wholly opposite prac¬ tice prevails. The Insistence by the clergy upon such a regulation can be explained only hy the fact that the saloon is regarded as a more efhcieut power of evil than the church is a power for good. Why not place saloons next door to churches, so that the beneficent influences of the latter could diminish the patronage of the former? AMONG the most encouraging signs that the period of business depression has had its proper and salutary effects are reports of the increased efRciency of labor. Mr. Finley, president of the Southern Railway Company, has re¬ cently stated that one cause of the much more economical operation of the service of that company was due to a con¬ siderable reduction of the labor cost—a reduction, not ef¬ fected by the decrease of wages, but by the ability to obtain a much better class of work for the same wage. Mr. Fin- ley's testimony to this effect is merely one among many. Building contractors in this city, for instance, state that they can flgure much more closely than they could a year or two ago, because they can depend upon getting a steadier and higher quality of work from the mechanics they employ. A reduction of the labor-cost of all kinds of industrial ser¬ vice and product w^as an essential condition of renewed in¬ dustrial American efficiency, and if it has been brought about, the way has been largely cleared for a genuine industrial revival. There is every indication that such a revival is at hand. Railway earnings, in spite of the continued dull¬ ness of certain important industries, such as the steel trade, are but little below the level of the large totals of last fall. The volume both of imports and exports has become about normal. The revenue of the Government is again heginning to increase. Tho number of immigrants for the first in many months is exceeding the number of emigrants. Many weak spots continue to exist in the husiness fabric, o£ which the weakest is the indisposition or the inability of the rail¬ roads to resume the work of improvement, but if their earn¬ ings continue to hold their own, this indisposition can hardly persist—particularly in view of the fact that the supply of available capital is by way of increasing rather than diminish¬ ing. The danger seems to be that after election is over, the process of improvement will be too much accelerated and that prices may rise too rapidly. In the building trades, for instance, a large proportion of the very considerable volume of new construction, which is being undertaken, is dependent on its moderate cost; and any sudden or formidable rise in prices would in all probability check the process. Intending builders would, consequently, do well to give out their con¬ tracts before rather than after election. Judging by the people who are postponing their operations until after the announcement of the results of the canvass, there is a real prospect of, a very considerably increased, cost of production before January 1. What is still needed is not a runaway market with soaring prices, but a gradual and wholesome process of recovery, which will retain the benefits of the econ¬ omies which have been forced upon business men during the past year. A runaway market would, we believe, be suc¬ ceeded by a quick and discouraging reaction. THE discussion provoked by the regulation of the height of buildings, proposed by the Commission, has not heen entirely favorable fo the details of the proposal. So far as the Record and Guide can gauge public sentiment, a consen¬ sus of opinion would seem to exist in favor of the following propositions: In the flrst place, some regulation of the height of buildings is necessary, for the preservation of light and air, the protection against flre, and the guarding against congestion in a very narrow street. The Commission has been wise in seeking to restrict the height of buildings to less than 3 35 feet on streets less than 45 feet wide. It has been wise in imposing an absolute restriction of 150 feet on all structures except office buildings, hotels, apartment-houses and churches. Such a limitation will not constitute any con¬ siderable hardship, because the conditions rarely exist which justify the erection of a loft or factory building more than eleven stories high. On the other hand, in the course of ten years, it is probable that conditions will change, and that the tendency will be lo erect lofts to a much higher level. It is desirable, however, that buildings of this class, which are very numerous, should be distributed rather than con¬ centrated, and a limitation of their height will facilitate dis¬ tribution, it is not likely, however, that any consensus of opinion will be gathered in favor of the absolute limitation of the height of offlce buildings, wherever situated, to 300 or 350 feet. Such a limitation would not accomplish the pur¬ pose which a restriction should aim to accomplish. It wouldr forbid the erection of towers which might be wholly unob¬ jectionable, and which w'ould supply magniflcent architectural opportunities, aud it would permit the erection of buildings which might curtail light and air where it is really needed. The objection to this method of restriction has been admir¬ ably stated by Mr. B. D. Litchfleld, of Tracy, Swartwout and Litchfield, in an interview recently published in the Record and Guide. "The fallacy," he says, "of the flat limit of height is easily realized when one considers the fact that the comfort of the people, not only in the building itself, but in the street and in adjoining buildings, will be better served, in case a certain cubic contents of building be constructed high, and surrounded by generous air spaces, than in case it is built solid with the minimum of court required by law. It is perfectly reasonable to limit the amount of light and air which the owner of a piece of property may use, because light and air are iu a sense public property and necessary to the public comfort and health; but on what ground can be justified any limitation of the shape of a building, pro¬ vided it is safely constructed and does not take away the light and air necessary to other people?" This statement of the matter leaves little to be desired, and it constitutes the only reasonable basis for any legal limitation o£ the height of office buildings and hotels.